The actor and director notably justified the change of ending compared to the novel and the “perfect” casting of Kristin Scott Thomas.
The adaptation of the famous novel by Nicholas Sparks, The Horse Whispererhas made millions of spectators sob since its release in September 1998. Grossing $186 million worldwide, this drama was seen by 2.9 million French people at the cinema.
Originally, Robert Redford wanted to hire Natalie Portman in the role of Grace, the young girl injured by her horse, but she declined in order to play in a theatrical adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank. It was Scarlett Johansson who was finally chosen, and, at only 13 years old, she was already proving to be a talented actress.
The Man Who Whispered Horses: the film that revealed Scarlett Johansson
For that of his mother, the filmmaker first thinks of Emma Thompson (Love Actually), then he finally bets on another British actress: Kristin Scott Thomas, the star of Four weddings, one funeral. “I wanted someone who could play comedy and she’s a good actress: she likes it, and she takes it seriously,” he told Jean-Yves Katelan in Premiere n°258. She was very brave. She tried things she had never tried before. And it’s not easy, especially for an English woman. The English like to be masters of themselves.”
Robert Redford also explained why he made the decision to change the ending from the novel. A book published in 1995, for which he had acquired the rights before it even arrived in bookstores. Beware of spoilers : “The book was very good, but that ending felt a bit like I had seen it before. (In the book, his lone cowboy character dies.) I wanted a harsher ending and it seemed to me that it would be harder if he was forced to make choices that required sacrifice and he was forced to live with them!”
Admitting to having been exhausted by this difficult filming, in particular because it is not easy to film animals, despite all the love he has for horses (he also specified during this interview that he had eight to the house), the creator of the Sundance festival also spoke about the evolution of independent cinema: “The truth today is that more and more films ‘independents’ are general public. More accomplished, technically better. And the directors are more competent, more aware of new techniques. And I also believe that many directors ‘independents’ lie when they say they are not interested in success. They are. (…) The Sundance Institute is against recipes. It exists to celebrate the freedom an artist should enjoy. It’s a workshop where filmmakers come to work with more experienced people.”
At the time, The Horse Whisperer only received two stars in Firsteven if Eric Libiot was ultimately rather positive in his review.
Regretting the lengths, he saluted all the same “a film that is clear and limpid in its style and in its subject matter. Here, there is no cynicism or punches, no more than mean characters or banana peels. Everything is love, as the Other would say. (…) We know Robert Redford’s love for horses, the great outdoors, the waving grass, the rustling calm, the passing of time (…). He takes his time to let the characters’ feelings grow (the love between Brooker and Annie in a magnificent dance scene), to capture the horses galloping, trotting, walking, galloping, trotting (and if there are too many, there are still more)” Welcoming in passing the beautiful photo of the cinematographer Robert Richardson (JFK, Aviator…), he concluded, a bit mockingly: “So he takes his time, Robert, films what he likes, for as long as he likes (2h40 in fact), and for those who are not happy, it’s the same thing.”
The Horse Whisperer is to see on VOD, notably on Première Max. Here is its trailer:
Robert Redford: “I will never stop acting or directing”